Large majorities of American voters across all political stripes favor letting Medicare negotiate drug prices, and most don’t buy into the argument that high drug prices are needed for drug companies to invest in new research, according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
About 83% of all voters favor letting the federal government negotiate drug prices. Broken down by political ideology, that translates to 95% of Democrats, 82% of independents and 71% of Republicans.
About eight in 10 adults (83%) and adults 65 and older (78%) say they think the cost of prescription drugs is “unreasonable.”
WHAT’S THE IMPACT?
The Democrats’ budget reconciliation package includes a proposal to allow the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries and people enrolled in private plans. The proposal, which has been part of previous legislative proposals and estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to result in about $450 billion in savings to Medicare, has met strong opposition from the pharmaceutical industry, as well as some lawmakers.
Yet the proposal is largely popular among the public across parties, as well as among seniors, the group most directly impacted by such legislation.
The poll finds that when the public is presented with the main arguments being made by advocates on both sides of the debate, the shift in opinion is modest and support for negotiation remains high.
The argument against negotiation is that the government would be too involved, and would lead to fewer new drugs being available in the future. The argument for negotiation is that Americans pay higher prices than people in other countries, many can’t afford their prescriptions and drug company profits are too high.
After hearing the arguments for and against the proposal to allow the federal government to negotiate prices with drug companies, attitudes remained relatively unchanged with a majority continuing to favor the proposal.
Neither President Joe Biden nor members of either party in Congress have gained the full confidence of the public to do what’s right for the country on prescription drug pricing. Slightly less than half of the public say they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of confidence in President Biden (46%) or Democrats in Congress (48%) to recommend the right thing for the country on prescription drug prices.
One-third of the public (33%) say they have at least a fair amount of confidence in Republicans in Congress, and few are confident that pharmaceutical companies will recommend the right thing (14%).
THE LARGER TREND
In August, President Biden called on Congress to pass solutions to lower prescription drug prices and hold brand-name drug manufacturers accountable, and said Medicare should have the ability to negotiate lower drug prices.
The president called for Medicare to cap yearly out-of-pocket drug costs for beneficiaries, as well as backing Food and Drug Administration efforts to accelerate the development of generic medicines, which typically have far lower costs to consumers. The negotiation push was part of a $3.5 trillion budget proposal that narrowly passed the House in August.
This met with opposition from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which aired television ads saying the move to have Medicare negotiate drug prices would take away consumer choice.
PhRMA CEO and president Stephen Ubl said by statement after Biden’s August speech: “Unfortunately, the policies the president outlined today would undermine access to life-saving medicines and fail to address an insurance system that shifts the cost of treatments onto vulnerable patients. Many in Congress know that access to medicine is critical for millions of patients and Medicare is not a piggy bank to be raided to fund other, unrelated government programs. This is a misguided approach.”
Ubl was referring to HR 3, the Elijah Cummings lower Drug Costs Now Act, which would use the money saved in Part D negotiations to help offset the $3.5 trillion spending bill. HR 3 passed the House in 2019 but was never voted on by the Senate.
It wasn’t the first time Biden has proposed having Medicare negotiate drug prices. In May, Biden called on Congress to lower prescription drug prices as part of his administration’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget. During a joint address to Congress in April, the president called for lawmakers to work toward bipartisan solutions to lower prescription drug prices, including giving Medicare the ability to negotiate.